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  • gilwilson 4:00 PM on January 11, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: biography, duke ellington, , , swing   

    Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington By: Terry Teachout 

    Duke: A Life of Duke EllingtonBy: Terry Teachout
    b93z-square-1536Narrated by: Peter Francis James
    Length: 17 hrs and 43 mins
    Release date: 10-17-13
    Publisher: Penguin Audio

    Any faithful reader or former faithful reader of this blog may notice that I’m posting on a steady basis again. Yes, but…. You may also see that it’s a daily post. Yes, but… Before the buts get stacked up I want to say that It seemed like I took a hiatus from the reviews. I sort of did at least posting the reviews. I would still write them up or at least outline them. So now I spent some time putting them all together and setting them up to post on a regular basis until I get caught up. I don’t want to overwhelm you so I set up the auto posting to do one a day until I get caught up, which may take a while.  So let’s get back to it.

    Once again I visit a biography, this time around I delve into the Jazz & Swing music with this Duke Ellington biography. Terry Teachout knew exactly what I wanted in a biography. Just the facts without too many details. Most of the time the details can go off in a tangent that starts to get too much like a tabloid publication. Sure it’s nice to hear some sordid details just not all. Teachout has the perfect blend of details and tells a great story about the life of one of Jazz’s greats.

    Publisher’s Summary

    A major new biography of Duke Ellington from the acclaimed author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong.

    Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was the greatest jazz composer of the twentieth century – and an impenetrably enigmatic personality whom no one, not even his closest friends, claimed to understand. The grandson of a slave, he dropped out of high school to become one of the world’s most famous musicians, a showman of incomparable suavity who was as comfortable in Carnegie Hall as in the nightclubs where he honed his style. He wrote some fifteen hundred compositions, many of which, like “Mood Indigo” and “Sophisticated Lady,” remain beloved standards, and he sought inspiration in an endless string of transient lovers, concealing his inner self behind a smiling mask of flowery language and ironic charm.

    As the biographer of Louis Armstrong, Terry Teachout is uniquely qualified to tell the story of the public and private lives of Duke Ellington. Duke peels away countless layers of Ellington’s evasion and public deception to tell the unvarnished truth about the creative genius who inspired Miles Davis to say, “All the musicians should get together one certain day and get down on their knees and thank Duke.”

    ©2013 Terry Teachout (P)2013 Penguin Audio

    This book will not only guide you through the good and bad times of the Duke, but also it gives the reader/listener a feel for how the music biz was run in the early to mid 20th Century. I was surprised at how much of music at the time was a collaborative effort, whether by choice or just flat out stealing other peoples works.

    While Terry Teachout writes about the specific events in the Duke’s life he also goes into very nice details on specific songs, so much so that halfway through the book I went and grabbed as many Ellington recordings I could find. Working in radio really came in handy there. I even found a 78rpm pressing of “Perdido” which was awesome to hear. Sure it was a bit hissy and scratchy but I could just visualize someone in the day sitting around the Victrola and enjoying some Jazz. Teachout describes the music so well that once I received the recordings I would listen at times to the music and the audiobook at the same time. It would have been really nice for the publisher to do that for the audiobook but licensing issues I completely understand.

    The narrator, Peter Francis James’s voice was perfect for this book. After listening to this book I saw him on some of my favorite television shows (CW Tv’s Arrow & Legends of Tomorrow) and was glad to see his face matched pretty well what I was picturing in my head. Great delivery for this great biography of a Jazz Great.

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  • gilwilson 5:49 PM on February 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , biography, , , bunny wailer, don't look back, , mick jagger, , peter tosh, , , the wailers   

    Audiobook Review:“Steppin’ Razor, the Life of Peter Tosh” By John Masouri 

    steppinrazor

    Audiobook Review:“Steppin’ Razor, the Life of Peter Tosh”
    By John Masouri
    Read by Cary Hite
    Produced by Buck 50 Productions
    Published by Blackstone Audio23.8 hours

    I have been reading and listening to a slew of musician biographies and autobiographies lately and have been learning a lot about my favorite bands and musicians. This time around I listened to the audiobook version of “Steppin’ Razor…” I had heard of Peter Tosh as an original member of The Wailers and loved his version of “Don’t Look Back” with Mick Jagger, but that was pretty much the extent of my knowledge of who, thanks to this book have come to know as the militant mystic man of Reggae.

    John Masouri has taken various accounts of the life of Peter Tosh told by those that knew him, such as fellow musicians, friends and family members. He also takes various accounts and anecdotes from music columnists, reviewers and professionals from all aspects of music. What comes about is a detailed, non-biased account of the life of Peter Tosh. How you view Tosh, whether being a militant Reggae music representative or a peaceful purveyor of the legalization of marijuana depends on what section of the book you are reading at the time. Tosh was a multi-layered man that had many deep seated beliefs in his religious views and in human rights and his music was a direct reflection of those beliefs.

    As a founding member of “The Wailers,” Peter Tosh, a self taught guitarist, he inspired the other members to pick up instruments and learn to play. Bob Marley had the voice but later, thanks to Tosh, learned to play guitar and make The Wailers the successful reggae music diplomats they are known as. Tosh’s leaving The Wailers has been attributed to his attitude toward the band’s representation of Rastafari, the religion of many reggae stars, to his change of personality after a car wreck in which he was severely injured and his girlfriend was killed. This book presents all sides of the Tosh’s departure from the Wailers and allows for the reader/listener to draw his own conclusions.

    The book also follows how Tosh’s fame received a boost by recording the Temptations’ song, “Don’t Look Back,” with Mick Jagger. Tosh seemed be be the Reggae artist which the Rolling Stones wanted to take under their wing and expose the world to the island music. Eric Clapton had recorded Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” and brought a little exposure, but Mick and Kieth (Richards) of the Rolling Stones fell in love with Reggae, especially Peter Tosh, and thought the genre deserved world attention. The problem is that Tosh had firm beliefs in the Rastafari religion that would sometimes stand in the way of his fame.

    Whether it is lighting up his spliff’s live onstage or on an airline flight from the United States, Peter Tosh was a major diplomat in the representation of legalizing “the herb.” One of his many stances which is referred to is his schpiel on the stage of the “One Love Peace Concert” in 1978, in which he lambasts the Jamaican authorities on the lack of action in the legalization of marijuana. This lead to his being arrested and beaten severely by Jamaican authorities a week later.

    Peter Tosh led a very controversial life whether being militant about human rights, pushing the legalization of marijuana, or just bringing to the public the genre of Reggae music. This book covers all of the controversy surrounding Tosh and allows for the reader/listener to draw their own conclusions.

    This audiobook was full of information and presented in a non-biased manner that made me want to discover more about Peter Tosh and Reggae in general. I do have one problem with the book and that is with the narrator, Cari Hite. Hite was able to represent all of the Jamaican subjects of the book by reading in different voices, and applying a Jamaican accent. This made the book easy to understand where the anecdote was coming from. The problem lies in that as the book progresses and other accents are needed he tries to read their voices in their accents. Most of the non-Jamaican accents are very stereotypical, especially those of the female voices. It made those segments very difficult to hear. Several times I wanted to just stop listening to the audiobook because it was discordant to the information presented. Had I not been interested in the subject matter I would have stopped listening several times in the book. Especially when famous music columnist, Lester Bangs’, segment was read with a Jamaican accent. Lester is far from Jamaican.

    I highly recommend this book, but not the audiobook format.

     
  • gilwilson 4:41 PM on July 9, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , biography, , , , , , peter macon, rastafarianism, , , timothy white   

    Audiobook Review: “Catch A Fire: The Life of Bob Marley” By Timothy White 

    Catch-a-Fire-2811773

    “Catch A Fire: The Life of Bob Marley”

    By Timothy White

    Read by Peter Macon

    Published by Blackstone Audio, Inc.

    Length 17.0 hrs

     

     

    All my life I’ve been fascinated with music, I’ve never been able to play an instrument but have loved listening to music.  I listen, enjoy and appreciate all genres of music, some genres I just appreciate for what they are trying to do, but I get it.   I never had the patience to learn an instrument but I could play a record, 8-track, cassette or CD so I went into a broadcasting career.

     

    One thing I have noticed is that not only does it take a lot of patience but there is something else that makes a star a star.  I read a lot of musician biographies and many times that something is passed down from generations of musicians.  So with great genes comes great talent.  Well not always.  This biography of Bob Marley demonstrates that while Marley had the talent for music, he also had a very unique spiritual background that led to his music breaking boundaries and pushing a new form of music, Reggae, into the mainstream.

     

    I was actually surprised by the content of this audiobook in that it offered much more than just a history of Bob Marley and his music.  Timothy White created a whole feel for the whys and wherefores of Marley, Jamaica and Reggae music.  In this book the listener gets a bit of a rounded education in religion with the history of Rastafarianism.  While I had heard of Rastafarianism (what Bob Marley fan hasn’t?) I had never heard of it’s origins until this book.  White covers the history of this religion all the way back to King Solomon.  I was intrigued by all the rich history this religion absorbs.

     

    Continuing the education created by Timothy White, the listener gets a lesson in the history of Jamaica and the development of the island’s politics and scandals.  Along with this history the history of the music scene of Jamaica is covered in depth and how Reggae came about.  Of course, the meat of this book is the life of Bob Marley but all these histories explain in detail how Marley was influenced not only musically but spiritually and politically as well.  This explains how Marley is able to influence many generations of music fans for years to come.

     

    The reader of this book was outstanding.  Peter Macon was able to bring this biography to full-color audio life with his vocal skills.  Talking in Jamaican, British or African accents Macon made this book come to life and with his rich deep voice for the normal narration made this book an easy listen.

     
  • gilwilson 11:42 PM on November 22, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , autiobiography, biography, , , classic rock, hybrid cars, keith carradine, , neil young, , phlanthropy   

    “Waging Heavy Peace” by Neil Young 

    “Waging Heavy Peace”
    by Neil Young
    read by Keith Carradine
    Published by Penguin Audio
    approx. 12.5 hours

    Being a classic rock fan, when I heard that Neil Young was publishing an autobiography I had to read it, then when I found out that it was in audiobook form, I jumped. Reading, or in this case, listening to, a biography of someone famous can be a bit tricky and especially so when it comes to an autobiography. Most of the time when the biography is written you get a person that has interviewed and/or followed a person or sometimes just did some research and interviewed people surrounding the subject. As a consumer of the biography you are then subject to the writers whims on what goes in or not and not always get the full picture of their subject. In the case of an autobiography you are sometimes only treated with what the person wants you to know. They can still be informative and give some insight to that person but keep in mind there’s always another side of the story.

    I know that since Neil Young wrote this himself he may or may not have glossed over some parts of his history. But once the book is started, a feel for the determination of Mr. Young to get out everything he finds important is clear. Neil has written this book in a manner that seems like, as the listener of the audiobook, you are just hanging out with him and he is telling stories of his life, past and present, and of his interest. The book is very conversational in delivery and sporadic as to which part of his life is being discussed. It is definitely not a linear biography listing all his achievements from birth to present.

    The book’s reader, Keith Carradine, superbly captures the voice of Neil Young and delivers this audiobook with great passion. When I first saw that it wasn’t read by Neil himself I was, to be honest, a bit upset. I would have loved to hear him tell his story. However, just a few minutes into the book and I soon forgot all about that and was relieved that Keith Carradine not only presented the material perfectly (after all he is a great actor) but he also was able to portray Neil Young’s life from these words that at times it seemed as though you were listening to Neil Young trying to do a Keith Carradine impression. No, Carradine doesn’t try to impersonate Young, it’s just that he is able to use his acting abilities to bring out the emotions of the stories that make this book a great listen.

    Okay, so, where to start? Basically this book is Neil’s life from his early days as a teenage musician in Canada to his life today where he has many interests that mostly center around his love of music, both creating and listening. The way the book is laid out is as though the listener/reader is just having a conversation about what is going on in his life now and every once in a while a memory is stirred up and a backstory has to be told.

    The book contains a very nice history of Buffalo Springfield, a bit of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and a lifetime of events with Crazy Horse. Throughout the book I felt as though Neil and I were walking around on his ranch and he was showing off his current interests and something would spark up a memory and we’d be launched into a story of the past. This is especially true when he talks about cars.

    Neil Young loves his cars, and has a collection on his ranch of various cars throughout the years. He loves his cars so much that he names every one of them, there’s the old tour bus, which was severely modified, named Pocahontas, a car named Nanoo the Lovesick Moose and lots of others. Each vehicle would spark a story of how it was acquired and what was going on in his life at the moment.

    What I found to be most interesting was the LincVolt which is a 1959 Lincoln Continental that has been modified to be a Hybrid with a biomass fuel run generator. He’s trying to perfect the LincVolt to prove that environmental conscious vehicles don’t have to be tiny battery run cars. He and a team of engineers are perfecting this dream of his. Not only does he care about the environment he’s gone so far as to develop this project to do something about it.

    At first you may think, yeah he’s just a rockstar with money to throw at a project but you may be as surprised as I was to find out he was part owner of Lionel, LLC, a company that makes toy trains and model railroad accessories. In 2008 Lionel emerged from bankruptcy and his shares of the company were wiped out, But he was instrumental in the design of the Lionel Legacy control system for model trains, and remains on the board of directors of Lionel. He also has been named as co-inventor on seven U.S. Patents related to model trains. The beginning of the book has Neil talking about this love of his, and when he transitions to creation of the LincVolt it all makes sense, rather than just thinking “That guy that sang ‘Old Man’ invented an electric car?”

    That’s not all he’s into, he’s also working on a music delivery sound that will enable to allow the listener to hear the full sound of music just as though they were in the studio with the musician. Since the release of CDs into the music industry the sound quality of recordings as dropped severly. While CDs have serious sound loss, the advent of mp3s has made things even worse. Mp3 files are so compressed and lossy that the listener is only getting about five percent of the actual sound. This is what is meant when audiophiles say that vinyl records are warmer sounding, since vinyl is analog the compression doesn’t exist and the quality of the recording is near perfect. Neil has created a system that was originally called PureTone but since that name was taken the name had to be changed. The system is now called Pono and reportedly able to deliver the full sound of a recording.

    This autobiography could have stopped there but when he talks about his life with and love for his children made him seem like a great human being. His two sons have Cerebral Palsy the youngest being a paraplegic because of the disease. His love and care for his sons shows in the words chosen and the things he’s done for them. His battles with epilepsy mixed in with his battles with record labels rounds out to show that Neil Young is his own person and nothing will stop him.

    Musician, inventor, philanthropist and humanitarian, Neil Young has lived a life of interest and this book brings it all into the light, the good with the bad, and ends with him contemplating the meaning of life. One of the best autobiographies I’ve ever read or heard.

     
  • gilwilson 8:12 PM on September 30, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 60s, biography, documentary, gangs, gonzo, hell's angels, hunter s. thompson, modern library, motorcycles, random house, sixties, violence   

    “Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs” by Hunter S. Thompson 

    “Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs”
    by Hunter S. Thompson
    Published by Modern Library (1999)
    originally published by Random House (1966)
    265 pages.

    I have been a fan of Hunter S. Thompson ever since I saw the movie “Where the Buffalo Roam” starring Bill Murray, which was loosely based on the book “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”  After seeing that movie I read the book and realized why it was LOOSELY based, because of the craziness that is Gonzo reporting that Thompson did best.

    I decided to go back again recently and tackle another Thompson book and this Hell’s Angels documentary seemed a good way to go.  In this book you don’t get as much craziness that makes the gonzo, Gonzo.  Instead with this book you get the early forms of gonzo reporting where Thompson placed himself at the heart of danger.  It is still told in first person as Thompson did best and with some great descriptive narrative that puts the reader pretty much on the back of a Harley and making some runs with the most dangerous group of the 60s.

    During this period of American history, The Hells Angels were a violent bunch, at least according to all the major newspapers.  Hunter S. Thompson, thought they may be getting a bad rap and decided to put himself in the middle of it all.  He approached Sonny Barger, the head of the Hells Angels at the time and told him of his plans to follow them as a reporter, a dangerous move in and of itself due to the Angels not trusting reporters because of the bad press.  But soon Thompson was mildly accepted into the fray and follows them for about a year.  Thompson’s relationship was ended with the Angels after they nearly beat him to death for making a remark to a fellow Angel that the club didn’t appreciate.  The remark was made when Thompson saw an Angel beating his wife, to which Thompson said, “Only a PUNK beats his wife.”

    The whole nature of the Hells Angels motorcycle club at the time always teetered on the edge of violence, whether it was  running out of beer or locals wanting to chase the club out of town.   This documentary not only shows the constant chance of violence, but Thompson also sheds some light on the idea that the Angels just wanted to be left alone.  Left to themselves they just wanted to have a good time on weekends and in many cases work their jobs during the week.  As with any large group there are individuals that would do something that would get the negative attention and that is what everyone focused on.  Thompson presented all the stories during his time with them good and bad.

    Some of the fun stuff in the book is when Ken Kesey and his Merry Band of Pranksters invite the Angels over for a party and the two cultures converge and the police are the ones that create the clash.  Many exciting adventures in this book and at times you feel you are reading a thriller with an exciting ending rather than  a documentary.  Great writing and interesting cultures make this book a good read.

     
  • gilwilson 10:19 PM on August 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , biography, , , , , james fox, joe hurley, , keith richards, , , ,   

    “Life” by Keith Richards & James Fox 

    “Life”
    by Keith Richards & James Fox
    Read by Johnny Depp, Joe Hurley & Keith Richards
    Produced by Hachette Audio (2010)
    Approx 24 hours.

    I think I may have read one of the most intriguing and entertaining autobiographies ever.  “Life,” the story of Keith Richards and his life in and out of the Rolling Stones.  The Stones were/are one of the world’s biggest bands and the stuff of rock and roll legend.  I never was a big fan of the Stones before, but after listening to this audio book I am now.  Working in radio I have played a few of their tunes and even had a couple of favorites, but I guess I never really gave them a chance.

    What has made me a fan most of all is something I found extremely surprising in this audiobook, the easy flow of the story beginning with Keith Richards’ early life and just rolling along through his life, warts and all.  Also the idea presented that Richards’ is a pretty laid back guy.  He had his ups and downs with drug addiction, which he discusses through this book, but the amazing thing is that he didn’t really have anything bad to say about anybody.  Most celebrity biographies/autobiographies, the celeb has a beef with someone or several someones.  Or there is an expose feel to a biography which has a purpose of poking at wounds.  Keith did have conflicts with people, such as Brian Jones and later with Mick Jagger and a few in between, but each time Keith presented it by always taking the blame for some of the turmoil.  He never blamed and there was no fingerpointing and there was no beef with anyone that he had to get out.  Keith simply told his story and left it at that.

    Many times throughout the book Keith turns the storytelling over to other people due to them having a different perspective, some of the other people are Marlon (his son), Bobby Keys, and just about anyone else involved in his life.

    In this book all the myths are exposed, such as did Keith get his “blood changed” to break his heroin addiction? did he really snort his father’s ashes? Was it a palm tree he fell from?  All this and more including the loves of his life.  Other than music Keith loved a few women, from Ronnie Spector to Anita Pallenberg, they’re all special and from the words he uses the reader/listener can tell he loved them deeply.

    Throughout the book Richards, of course, discusses his love of music.  From the discovery of American Blues to Island music, he incorporates it all into the music that becomes the most timeless music of all time, Rolling Stones music.  How some of the songs were written and recorded can be surprising and yet once you go back and hear the tunes it makes sense.

    The audiobook is also a bit of a Keith Richards sandwich, with Keith providing the intro and the final chapters’ narration of the book.  Johnny Depp reads for Keith’s early years, and musician Joe Hurley reads for the better part of the 70s section and Johnny Depp taking over again for the 80s and beyond.   Depp, who based his Jack Sparrow pirate character on Richards, does an awesome job reading as Richards, but Joe Hurley makes the middle section fun doing a great “slight” impersonation of Richards and the others whose voices are required.  As far as biographies go this is the best read one I’ve ever heard.

    With the book being around 24 hours of listening time, I was a bit wary of the task, but once the book started I was hooked and just couldn’t let go.  Great bit of rock and roll history with some inside stories that make the trip more fun.

     
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